By Alexa Kaczka
A leading charity of the blind has expressed concern about the recent fall in the number of people undergoing cataract operations.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has drawn attention to the fact that, in 2011, number of operations being carried out on the Health Service fell by more than 25 per cent in some areas of the UK.
In addition, the majority of NHS trusts in England have now implemented their own criteria for the surgery, which in many cases are stricter than existing national guidelines.
The charity has now suggested that primary care trusts (PCTs), which that manage the NHS, are limiting access to operations.
Overall, the number of cataract operations had been rising gradually in line with the ageing population until 2010, when it stood at 350,602.
Following a Freedom of Information requests by the RNIB, it was discovered that this figure had dropped to 338,565 in 2011, despite the prevalence of cataract cases continuing to rise.
Worcestershire saw the biggest fall, with 3,188 cataract operations carried out in 2011, compared to 4,388 the year before – equivalent to a 27 per cent drop – while Nottingham saw a fall of 25 per cent and Brighton and Hove experienced a 24 per cent decrease.
Steve Winyard, head of policy at the charity, told the Daily Mail he is "desperately concerned" about what is happening.
"These new figures show for the first time what we thought was happening, which is that the numbers of operations being carried out is falling. Clearly, we would expect to see a gradual rise, given the ageing population," he explained.
"But a lot of PCTs are putting in place restrictive policies. It’s elective surgery, so they just tell ophthalmologists they can’t carry out as many operations."
Mr Wynyard said that some people’s sight then has to fall "an awfully long way" before they qualify.
by Alexa Kaczka